April 21, 2005

Ethiopia requests that Britain returns plundered treasures

Posted at 1:08 pm in Similar cases

Following their success in the return of the Axum Obelisk earlier this week, the Ethiopian government has now requested the Britain returns a number of looted Ethiopian artefacts.

The Times

The Times
April 20, 2005

Britain told by Ethiopia to give back treasures
By Richard Beeston

ETHIOPIA has appealed to Britain to match Italy’s gesture by repatriating hundreds of artefacts plundered by the British Army in the 19th century.

Fisseha Adugna, Ethiopia’s Ambassador to London, told The Times: “We wish to encourage all others who possess Ethiopian cultural and sacred artefacts — both institutions and individuals — to graciously return them to Ethiopia.”

The plunder of Ethiopian treasures after the Battle of Maqdala in 1868 was not one of the finest chapters in British imperial history. An expeditionary force under General Sir Robert Napier invaded Ethiopia after the British consul and several missionaries were taken hostage by the Ethiopian ruler Emperor Tewodros. The victorious troops looted the imperial treasury and the Church of the Saviour of the World, taking crucifixes, Bibles, Christian manuscripts and other irreplaceable religious artefacts.

Many items were sold on by soldiers, but much remains in British hands. The British Library has nearly 350 manuscripts, the British Museum 80 objects, the Victoria and Albert Museum a gold crown and gold chalice and the Royal Library in Windsor Castle six ecclesiastical manuscripts.

A few items have been returned, and the British Museum has offered to transfer nine tabots (engraved wooden tablets representing the Ark of the Covenant) to the Ethiopian Church in London on long-term loan.

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